I’ve been working in the manufacturing industry for 23 years. All during this time, and likely before, manufacturers have had difficulty finding skilled workers and filling open jobs. For example, in an article I published in 2004, a report from the NAM entitled “Keeping America Competitive: How a Talent Shortage Threatens U.S. Manufacturing” said that 10 million new skilled workers would be needed by 2020.

Today, the problem of skills and open jobs continues, with projections of future workforce needs indicating that the problem of finding qualified candidates for jobs is going to deepen.

In a report published last month, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, a sister organization of the MLC, said that the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030.

Baby boomer generation retirements, a continued negative perception of manufacturing in the general public including students, and an emerging set of digital functions and roles that manufacturers will increasingly need to fill, a dynamic that was vague in 2004, are all contributing to the workforce problem.

But there are a number of strategies and tactics manufacturers can employ to address the issue. Deloitte and the MI, for example, said in their study that diversity, equity, and inclusion employee recruitment strategies can “exert a growing influence” to help manufacturers fill open jobs.

This issue of the Journal offers a number of articles on the talent issue, particularly through the M4.0 lens.

In “Building M4.0-Ready Skills”, authors from RSM say that to realize the full value of M4.0, companies must elevate their approaches for managing and deploying skills aligned with new technology.

“As technologies such as automation, Internet of Things-enabled devices, virtual reality, and cloud computing become more ubiquitous throughout the manufacturing sector, industrial companies will find themselves competing for talent with rivals they haven’t dealt with as much before”.

And in “Competing for Talent in a Tech-Centric World”, authors from West Monroe say companies need to go all-in on embracing digital tools, understanding demographic shifts in the workforce, and developing intentional succession planning.   M

What’s your leadership and workforce plan for the future? Write to me at  dbrousell@nam.org